How to Rescue Failing Software Projects: Practical Proven Methods That Work

IMG_1712 My book is finally available as an eBook, on Amazon Kindle and on Amazon. I wrote this book to share my experience in how to rescue failing software projects. When I was going through such a situation, I had no one to turn to. My hope is that the information in this book will be useful to those in similar situations. Although the information in the book pertains to software projects, I have come to realize that the techniques can be used in many other situations. I have personally used these techniques in business and technical projects.

You can read more about it here.
My book can be purchased here at
Amazon Kindle version is available here at

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Managing life and projects

Would you manage your life the way you manage a project? Or rather, would you manage your project the way you manage your life?

Is there a difference? Yes and no. Managing requires skill, expertise and thoughtful planning and execution.

When IT projects are managed, there are lots of flexibility and leeway given to the scope, robustness of testing, and disciplined execution. What if the IT project was to create a system that dealt with life and death situations? how different would that perspective be?

With life and death situations, more careful thought, planning, execution, ensuring all requirements are duly met, robustness and fail overs are included. In many non-critical IT systems, this is not the case. So what if there is a bug here, a failure there? Simply restart the system or simply log the error and rectify it later.

Would you walk into a skyscraper that had been built without a firm foundation, where the developer skimped on materials, had shoddy workmanship, and building approvals were lacking? I think not because your life is at stake the minute you walk into that building and the building could collapse.

If we treat each and every IT project with such a mindset, both the users and vendors will be more careful with scope, requirements, development, testing and eventually, have a system that will meet the end-user's needs.

I'd like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year 2010. Happy Holidays everyone.


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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Personal effectiveness and project management?

I received questions after my latest post. What has taking action and personal effectiveness have to do with project management?

My simple answer: EVERYTHING!

Let's take a look at an organization structure that is built for a higher chance of army! It's about life-or-death situations with an army. Isn't this true with projects? It may not look like a life-or-death situation, but it certainly feels like one when you are in it! :)

An army functions like a well oiled engine. All moving parts know what each part is supposed to do. Each individual part knows what it is supposed to do, and they are expected to do it well.

The strength of any organization or team lies with the individual.It is the collective individual that together bring a team or organization towards this success. Every individual needs to be effective and competent in what they do. In this way, groups of individuals become effective and achieve their goals. This translates to higher order or groups and eventually, into a larger group known as an organization.

In the project, if individuals are not effective, the team cannot proceed smoothly. The project manager must find ways to promote effectiveness and more importantly, to ensure effectiveness either through mandated processes or through informal means.

Whether I'm involved in reviewing projects that are successfully executed or projects that require assistance, I always want to know the modus-operandi of the individual and processes that were instituted that contributed to the current outcome (whether positive or negative).

I'm old school. I have the belief that everyone in a team wants to do the best job they know how, provided they are given the tools to perform. In my view, knowledge and information are considered as tools. If these individuals to not know where they are headed, the project is headed for big trouble.

This is the linkage between personal effectiveness and project management. Everyone in the team counts. The trick is how to harness that positive energy from each individual so that the sum total positive effectiveness of every individual is greater than the team.

The word "effectiveness" can mean many things, which I will discuss in future blog entries.

This is the trick to successful project management. I have personally used and witnessed the power of an individual and how it can lead to a successful turnaround of a project in trouble.


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Decisions you make, when all the stars in the universe align and a cup of coffee!

What a day! It began like any other day. Within one hour, it was as though all the stars in the universe were aligned. The decisions my wife an I made early in the morning caused the stars in the universe (my universe) align.

Decision #1
My daughter had classes really early this morning. I decided to drive her to school at 6.40am, and head to Starbucks by the beach. I had decided to have Bagel and coffee for breakfast with my wife before getting started on my work.

As luck would have it, we were too early. Yup. At 7.30am, Starbucks was closed. We were sorely disappointed. We stood outside Starbucks for 10 minutes, deciding where we could go to fill our growling hungry stomachs.

Decision #2
Between going to a hawker centre and a McDonald's by the beach, we decided to have breakfast at McDonalds.

Decision #3
While at McDonalds, we took 5 minutes to decide on our breakfast. It was a difficult choice because we were set on having bagels. As we were about to place our orders, a voice behind me said, "Why aren't you in Korea?".

Conrad, an old school mate and buddy of mine, had also just dropped by McDonalds for breakfast with his wife after sending their kids to school. He is also one person who would kick me if I did not complete writing my book "How to rescue failing software projects", which I eventually did and got it listed on Amazon! (Believe me, you don't want to be kicked by Conrad!)

What a coincidence. We had a really nice chat, catching up on the latest happenings in his field of work and compared notes on family tips.

It wasn't long before Conrad's sister, Gwen, came roller-blading by. Another coincidence. She teaches in an education centre that my son attends. She also mentioned that another common friend of ours was having breakfast with his wife at another coffee joint.

Adam, the other "common friend", and his wife, came by McDonalds and we all sat around a small table, sipping on coffee while catching up with each other. Adam is the other person who gave me the inspiration to write my book.

While we sat around a table sipping coffee, we didn't talk about business. There were no expectations placed on any of us. We were relaxed and comfortable, sharing our experience and insights freely

What are the chances that a group of friends can get together by being at the same place, at the same time and doing the same thing? All the stars in the universe must have been aligned!

What has this got to do with effectiveness and project management? A lot. It may seem like a simple get-together, but the same concepts learned from this simple setting can be very powerful.

Observation #1
Simple decisions can determine the outcome of major tasks. If my wife and I hadn't made the decision to have breakfast together at Starbucks, this chain of events wouldn't have happened. It takes one decision to get the ball rolling.

Observation #2
When one door closes, another opens. If we hadn't made the decision to have breakfast at Starbucks, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to make an alternative decision to have breakfast at McDonalds. If we didn't have breakfast at McDonalds, we wouldn't have met Conrad and Adam with their wives, and Gwen. If my wife and I had breakfast just 10 minutes earlier or 10 minutes later, we wouldn't have had the gathering. A closed door or failed opportunity leads to another open door, provided a decision is made to take action.

Observation #3
Not all get-togethers or meetings need to be about business. In managing projects, project managers and team members are up to their necks with uncompleted tasks. It does pay to have small breaks, or small celebrations on milestone completions. These breaks and celebrations are just that...real breaks. It should not be done on a pretext of having a break, and end up having a meeting about the project over coffee. It is about building rapport. It is about understanding each other in the team. It is about building camaraderie and friendships. People relate best when they are relaxed and not have expectations put upon them. Especially in project teams where there is always a tight schedule and endless number of tasks, these friendships help the project team to have a higher morale and thus, leading to greater productivity.

I have personally experienced observation #3 when I was in the midst of rescuing projects. No matter how tired we were, we remained a cohesive team, We understood each other better, we could relate to each other's challenges better and we were willing to help each other out. There was a strong "give-and-take" attitude that enabled us to successfully turn projects around. Boundaries and walls within the team were chipped away naturally.

So, do not wait for all the stars in the universe to align before having a cup of coffee. Make that decision to enjoy a simple, freshly brewed, steaming hot cup of coffee with your family, with your team, with your boss, or just by yourself. You never know when and how the stars will align for you.


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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Do you believe in luck?

Originally uploaded by bernong1
"Boy, you're lucky". "I wish I was as lucky as you".

Is there really such thing as luck? Is luck given out to certain people and not others? Can we make our own luck?

I do believe there is luck. It is also another name for opportunity. Opportunities abound everywhere and anytime.

What we do with this opportunity determines our "luck". I believe we make our luck. We make our opportunities. Luck and opportunities do not mean 100% guaranteed success. It is simply a chance given to you to take action and make something out of the situation or need. Whether it succeeds or not depends on the actions you take or not take.

Every single action we take every single minute makes our "luck". We make our "luck" and we make it come true. The one factor that contributes to our success is a passionate and prudent use of time.

Use your time well. Every step you take should move you closer to your goals.

Make you own luck!

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What to manage in IT project management?

What is there in an IT project that needs IT project management?

There are so many aspects to project management. Its a complex yet simple subject. Many project managers will have different perspectives as to what is important in IT project management. Project management associations and institutes have differing views as well. Despite these different views, there are common threads that run through each view.

Ironic? No. Just as a situation can be viewed in many different ways, a job can be accomplished in many different ways too.

IT project management encompasses the technical aspects of IT, which is about well designed architectures, well translated and implemented codes. It encompasses good project management practices such as a clear and well thought-out plan and schedule, contracts that are clearly agreed upon, expectations of the end goal well communicated and agreed. THere are many more facets to IT project management.

All these sound logical and usually requires common sense. However, for those who have been involved in IT projects know that "what will go wrong, will". Despite the difficulties, there are always ways to workaround and get the project delivered to expectations and within time and budget.

In each of these facets of IT project management, there are nuances and issues to be addressed. Some are complex issues that go beyond the technical realm. It requires human interaction, negotiation and effectiveness.

An IT project is like an army mission. Many supporting roles are required such as logistics, long range weapons, foot-soldiers, planning on deployment and timing of troop movement, attack and defence plan. All these have to work in tandem. The commander cannot focus on only one aspect and 'hope' that the other aspects of the mission will go well. The commander needs to know each and every aspect well in order to mobilize troops and make necessary adjustments for a successful mission.

Likewise for IT projects. Most project managers I know focus only on areas they are comfortable with, either on the plan and schedule, or technical, or contract. This is where project go awry.

A competent project manager needs to know every aspect of the project well. He may not be fully competent in a certain area, in which case, he needs to engage the helps of his team leads to provide him with accurate information...and go down to the ground to verify. Nothing beats real information from the ground.

When a project manager doesn't manage a project from a holistic perspective, he cannot manage effectively. WHen the project begins to fail, he will not be able to confidently steer the project to a successful completion. THis is one typical cause of project downfall.

Whether in projects or personal life, situations and projects must be looked at in a holistic manner. Neglecting an area can lead to a stagnation or detriment to the project or personal life.


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